Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama for president

Sunday, October 19, 2008 | 6:43 p.m. CDT; updated 11:06 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 29, 2008

WASHINGTON —  Colin Powell, a Republican and retired general who was President Bush's first secretary of state, broke with the party Sunday and endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president, calling him a "transformational figure," while criticizing the tone of John McCain's campaign.

The former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman said either senator is qualified to be commander in chief. But after studying both, he concluded that Obama is better suited than McCain, the standard-bearer of Powell's own party, to handle the nation's economic problems and help improve its world standing.

"It isn't easy for me to disappoint Senator McCain in the way that I have this morning, and I regret that," Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press," where he announced the endorsement and delivered a serious blow to the aspirations of his longtime friend, Arizona Sen. McCain.

But, Powell added: "I think we need a transformational figure. I think we need a president who is a generational change and that's why I'm supporting Barack Obama, not out of any lack of respect or admiration for Senator John McCain."

Powell's endorsement has been much anticipated because of his impressive foreign policy credentials, a subject on which Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, is weak. Powell is a Republican centrist popular among moderate voters.

At the same time, Powell is a black man and Obama would be the nation's first black president — a goal Powell considered pursuing for himself in 1996, before deciding not to run. Powell said he was cognizant of the racial aspect of his endorsement, but said that was not the dominant factor in his decision.

Powell expressed disappointment in the negative tone of McCain's campaign, his choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a running mate and their decision to focus in the closing weeks of the contest on Obama's ties to 1960s-era radical William Ayers, saying "it goes too far."

A co-founder of the Weather Underground, which claimed responsibility for nonfatal bombings in the United States during the Vietnam Warera, Ayers is now a college professor who lives in Obama's Chicago neighborhood. He and Obama also served together on civic boards in Chicago.

"This Bill Ayers situation that's been going on for weeks became something of a central point of the campaign," Powell said. "But Mr. McCain says that he's a washed-out terrorist. Well, then, why do we keep talking about him?"

Powell said McCain's choice of Palin raised questions about judgment.

"She's a very distinguished woman, and she's to be admired. But at the same time, now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don't believe she's ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president," he said. "And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made."

McCain seemed dismissive of Powell's endorsement, saying he had support from four other former secretaries of state, all veterans of Republican administrations: Henry Kissinger, James A. Baker III, Lawrence Eagleburger and Alexander Haig.

"Well, I've always admired and respected Gen. Powell. We're longtime friends. This doesn't come as a surprise," McCain said on "Fox News Sunday."

When asked whether the endorsement would undercut his campaign's assertion that Obama is not ready to lead, McCain said, "Well, again, we have a very, we have a respectful disagreement, and I think the American people will pay close attention to our message for the future and keeping America secure."

Powell also said he was troubled that some Republicans — he excluded McCain — continue to say, or allow others to say, that Obama is a Muslim, when he is a Christian. Such rhetoric is polarizing, he said.

"He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America," Powell said. "Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?"

Obama called Powell to thank him for the endorsement, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

"I am beyond honored and deeply humbled to have the support of General Colin Powell," Obama said at a rally in Fayetteville, N.C. "General Powell has defended this nation bravely, and he has embodied our highest ideals through his long and distinguished public service ... And he knows, as we do, that this is a moment where we all need to come together as one nation — young and old, rich and poor, black and white, Republican and Democrat."

Powell said he remains a Republican, even though he sees the party moving too far to the right. He supports abortion rights and affirmative action, and said McCain and Palin, both opponents of abortion, could put two more conservative justices on the Supreme Court.

"I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that's what we'd be looking at in a McCain administration," Powell said.

Powell chaired the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation's top military post, during the first Gulf war under President George H.W. Bush. As secretary of state, he helped make the case before the United Nations for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, launched in March 2003.

Powell said the nation's economic crisis provided a "final exam" of sorts for both candidates.

"I found that he was a little unsure as to how to deal with the economic problems that we were having," Powell said of McCain. "Almost every day there was a different approach to the problem and that concerned me, sensing that he doesn't have a complete grasp of the economic problems that we had."

In contrast, Powell said Obama "displayed a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge and an approach to looking at problems ... I think that he has a definitive way of doing business that would serve us well."

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Charles Dudley Jr October 19, 2008 | 7:43 p.m.

Wow one of the biggest Republicans is going to be voting out of party for Barack Obama. I'm impressed with this and Collin Powell explained his reasons in depth and that is very respectable indeed.

(Report Comment)
John Shoptaw October 19, 2008 | 8:01 p.m.

I'm also impressed by Colin Powell's thoughtful endorsement. In 2000, Powell supported Senator McCain for president over Bush, and McCain publicly promised to name Powell his secretary of state. What a difference a few years, and a few wars, make!

I hope this endorsement by this most distinguished veteran will be taken seriously by other war veterans. Senator Obama received a B from the nonpartisan veterans group, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, while McCain received a D. Why? Senator McCain was one of only 22 senators to oppose the post-9/11 G.I. Benefits Bill, signed into law this year by President Bush.

Both Senators honor our veterans, but Senator Obama has more strongly translated his respect into legislative action.

(Report Comment)
Timm Lynn October 19, 2008 | 8:07 p.m.

I don’t understand Republicans. The country has been ravished by their so-called smaller government model where we stand idly by while the fat cats siphon off the wealth. They bemoan less government oversight, which is right up the alley of those that have ruined our economy. We want the government to enact laws that prevent corporations from hitting middle class folks with balloon payments on homes to live in, while they engineer golden parachutes for themselves. Under the guise of the big bad Socialist cometh, the GOP fat cats get the middle class whipped into a frenzy by saying that Obama is going to take away your money and give it away to the poor and lazy. No, he’s going to make those same fat cats pay their full share of taxes to pay for the services that we all have been blessed to have thus far.

If it is so that only the first hundred thousand dollars of income is taxed, but the rest of their millions is not, I want that to change. Let them pay 22% on all of it like we all do. What’s so wrong with that? Somebody please tell me. Reagan started the whole trickle down form of government. Bush just implemented the thing on steroids. We all see what it’s gotten us. Obama jut wants to do things in a fair way, let he rich pay their fair share. If you comment on this, Please, Please address the issue of fairness in taxation. What’s wrong with the rich paying tax on their entire income while we who earn less than $250,000 pay the same we’ve always paid?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 20, 2008 | 5:04 a.m.

Timm Lynn this is one of the best presentations I have seen on this issue and great job you are totally correct!

(Report Comment)
Obama's Conscience October 20, 2008 | 5:36 a.m.

Timm, you clearly don't understand how Social Security works. If you made the median income your entire life, are old enough to retire tomorrow and die at the current life expectancy for your gender, there's a slim chance that you will get back what you paid into Social Security. If you retire in 10 years or later, you'd have to live until you're nearly 100 to get back what you paid in. Of course, if you've made higher than the median income your entire life, you've paid even more in Social Security taxes and have even less chance of getting that back before you die. So why should someone making higher than the median income want to pay even more in Social Security taxes? They'll never get that back. So what they've paid in winds up paying for benefits for those who didn't work as hard as they did during their lifetime.

Similar situation for Medicare. Someone with an income of $1 million pays $145,000 in Medicare taxes, while someone making $10,000 pays $145. But when they retire, they both get the same level of coverage. This is just one example of how high earners already foot the bill for most people.

Instead of demanding that people who are already paying most of the taxes in this country pay even more, we need to focus on those who aren't carrying their load. For example, people who use excuses such as a bad back, Tourette's or ADHD to go on Social Security disability for life should be booted off and told to find a job. If you can lift a finger, you can work. Suck it up. Richard Teitelman is blind, and yet he's a Missouri Supreme Court judge, rather than collecting welfare. There are people in wheelchairs working full-time in factories because they understand the pride of being productive citizens, instead of leaches.

(Report Comment)
Timm Lynn October 20, 2008 | 7:16 a.m.

I appreciate your comments OC. I say to that, anybody earning a million or more a year shouldn't worry about what the govt is going to give back at the end of his/her work experience. Smart saving and not living above their means should allow this person to live comfortably for many, many years. I just don't understand how wealthy people can justify garnering all this wealth along with the perks thst come with it, then crying poor poor me. when it comes to giving something back. Yes the underlings should be kicked off the dole. Why can't we do (as Obama claims) BOTH?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 20, 2008 | 7:23 a.m.

First off Obama's Conscience being you are too cowardly to use your real name as the site ethics and rules plainly ask you to do your comments will be more than likely over looked as the dribbling ramblings of somebody who is obviously upset that the Republican boat that has sailed and failed over the past 8 years is slowly sinking into the sunset.

Also what qualifications do you have to be deriding the disabled and their disabilities as are outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act? I do not think you are qualified at all,nor disabled yourself nor actually educated enough to form a consensus point of view about anything to do with people with disabilities by far. Your commentary is moot on the subject as a whole. You portray a few facts but you do not portray the entire scope of the story.

(Report Comment)
Obama's Conscience October 20, 2008 | 7:38 a.m.

Timm, who are you to decide what people making a million or more should get to keep? They are already paying their fair share and then some. Those who are not happy with how much they make should ask themselves why they believe they are failures in life instead of whining that the government should take money from successful people.

Charles, you're a fine one to complain. I think this person hit even closer to the mark

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 20, 2008 | 8:06 a.m.

Great job again Obama's Conscience not being able to use your real name and obviously doing nothing but personal attacks.

If you want people to actually see your opinions as realistic views try using your real name instead of hiding behind some fake moniker unless you are to cowardly to stand up as a citizen in this community.

Also ams13 does not know me personally,does not have a clue who I am or my over all views and their posting was a blatant personal attack against my points of view on a subject I live with every day and have since the day I was born. That is the difference is I live it and obviously you and ams13 do not.

It is obvious you have no education when it comes to those with disabilities but then again you are too cowardly to post your real name here as well so the two obviously go hand in hand.

(Report Comment)
John Beaumonte October 20, 2008 | 8:15 a.m.

Obama's Conscience - who are you anyway? Are you so afraid to step up to the plate and identify your words with your name or are you a coward? I've had Republicans call me at home polling (or should I say trolling) for their candidates votes in the guise of being an independent polling group from Canada, yeah right! Republican spin has been going on for years from Limbaugh to Hasselbeck to you?
Come on - step out - identify yourself - or just simply shut up!!

(Report Comment)
Timm Lynn October 20, 2008 | 8:33 a.m.

OC, I'm sure that if one wins a lottery, the gov't is going to take about 30% of all winnings. If the total is 50 million, the taxing is not going to stop at $100,000. The same should be said for earnings. Obama simply wants to close the loopholes that the rich and unfair lobbists have created for themselves. We all can only stand idly by and watch the high paid CEOs leave failing businesses with golden parachute payoffs, having raped the company and consumers in their wake. Really, if a CEO is paid off astronomical sums to leave a failing company, little is said, but if a poor person is given welfare or gets social security while there is still an ounce of hard labor in him, you cry foul. Let's just be equal in our taxation, criticisim and entitlements. That's what people see in Obama. And they equate McCain with more of the same - Carl Rove, and company rides again.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand October 20, 2008 | 9:43 a.m.

How have the rich created loopholes? The top 5% (>$153,542) pay 60% of all federal income taxes. The top 1% (>$388,806) pay 40%. Methinks some lazy whiners need to get off the wagon and start pulling.

You cannot dispute these numbers. Do you know why Bill Clinton backed welfare reform? Because he knew that there are a lot of lazy people not pulling their load. And don't forget that Slick Willie also said during the first election that he wouldn't raise middle class taxes. Then two months after inauguration, he raised taxes for people making $30K and up.

Do you really think that Obama can fund all of these new welfare programs by taxing only the wealthy? Not likely, considering that one-third of all people who filed a tax return in 2006 didn't have to pay taxes. And he wants to put even more people on the wagon.

Timm John and Charles, what are you gonna do when the people pulling the wagon stop and walk away? Are you men enough to take over?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz October 20, 2008 | 9:51 a.m.

Timm, you apparently do not understand the tax system. There is no income limit at which the government stops collecting income tax, either $100,000 or $250,000. When it comes to Social Security "contributions", there is a cap near $100,000. Obama has proposed raising that cap, but leave a "donut hole" between the current level and his new higher level that is not taxed.

I also find it interesting that you said "If it is so that only the first hundred thousand dollars of income is taxed, but the rest of their millions is not, I want that to change. Let them pay 22% on all of it like we all do." The higher tax rates are in the 30s actually, so you are wanting to let them off the hook for less than they are already paying.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand October 20, 2008 | 10:31 a.m.

John Schultz, you correctly picked up on one of the fallacies that Timm and his ilk buy into. Check this out: "A U.S. News & World Report blogger went to the Democratic National Convention in Denver and conducted an informal poll of 24 DNC delegates. He asked them, 'What should 'the rich' pay in income taxes?' Half the respondents said "25 percent"; 25 percent said "20 percent"; 12 percent said "30 percent"; and another 12 percent said "35 percent." The average DNC delegate wanted the rich to pay 25.6 percent, which is lower than what the rich pay now -- both by share of taxes and by tax rate!"

Time for those of you not pulling your share to start doing so. Don't be bitter and greedy because other people have worked harder than you, saved more and have more to show for their initiative and responsibility.

(Report Comment)
Timm Lynn October 20, 2008 | 11:54 a.m.

I am absolutely in favor of a flat tax rate. If it's 22% let it be that. If it's 25 or 30, then everybody should pay that. Which rich man said that with the loopholes that he found for himself, he thought that he should pay more? If a wealthy person really took advantage of all the loopholes and 3 martini lunches that are afforded them, they could wittle their portion to nothing.

(Report Comment)

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